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[HANOI] Low salaries for scientists are the biggest obstacle to developing science in Vietnam, according to a report from the Sweden-based International Foundation for Science (IFS), which supports young scientists in developing countries.

Vietnam should invest in salaries and research funding for scientists — particularly for promising young researchers — and ensure creative research environments and opportunities for networking if its scientists are to meet the country's environmental and development challenges, says the report, published this month (12 March).

Young researchers are of primary importance, says the report, as they have often recently completed research degrees that are a valuable asset to the country.

But the report's author, Eren Zink — scientific programme coordinator at IFS, and a PhD student at Uppsala University, Sweden — says Vietnamese universities and research institutions have difficulty offering talented young researchers opportunities to use their knowledge.

In particular, the low salaries "constitute a threat to any investment in strengthening scientific research capacity", he says in the report.

Chu Tuan Nha, chairman of the Vietnam National Council for Science and Technology Policy agrees, saying that "low salary is one of main obstacles to stimulating scientists, and it is especially becoming a big hurdle for Vietnam in finding a new generation of young scientists to replace the old ones".

He adds that limited budgets for equipment and infrastructure also make keeping talented scientists difficult.

"Vietnam's government is trying its utmost to increase the national budget for improving the livelihoods of scientists and reinforcing investment in science development in general but it seems still a modest level," says Doan Nang, director-general of the Department of Legislation under the Vietnam Ministry of Science and Technology.

Nang says that to ease salary difficulties, scientists who are currently working in government-funded universities and institutes are encouraged to work with private enterprises outside working hours to gain extra revenue.

"Too many of the solutions put forward by the government for improving science in Vietnam focus on increasing [research] funding," Zink told SciDev.Net.

"Starting from this point, there should be a renewed focus on creating an environment for research that stimulates creativity, exchange of ideas, debate and teamwork," he said.

Link to full report [1.99MB]